One of the most prominent barriers to social media engagement is “I just don’t have time” or even “[insert social site here] is just a waste of time.”
Agreed, Twitter, Facebook and the like CAN be huge time-sucks and the line between time-suckage and utility is a very fine one that requires a lot of monitoring and self-discipline. Social media can be overwhelming and it’s all too easy to just start clicking on people’s profiles, following links to blog posts and generally getting lost in the maze of the interweb. Before you know it you’ve wasted 30 minutes and not done anything productive. However, once you are able to get past the time-waste factor, you can begin to see the benefits of being involved. I hope these tips will provide some practical methods to optimize your engagement.
1) “How much time should I spend doing social media?”
To start out with, whatever time you can comfortably and realistically carve out for yourself, preferably on a daily basis. You might start out with 30 minutes a day. Or if you have a team, maybe it’s an hour, split between 2 or 3 members. I believe that a small amount every day is better than a longer block once per week. Once you get the hang of things and start to integrate social media into your marketing even more, the amount of time will most likely expand – this is great so long as you keep a tight focus.
2) “Sometimes it looks like people are Twittering all day long – I don’t have that kind of time.”
Some people probably ARE on Twitter all day long and others just look like they are because they are using tools like Hootsuite to schedule their tweets. Work smarter not harder. Automation cannot replace the human touch, but it can supplement your efforts and increase your productivity. Schedule your content-based Tweets in advance so that when you get online you can focus on responding to messages, joining in current conversations and other activities that are time-sensitive. If you have a blog, Hootsuite can be set up to automatically send out a Tweet when you publish a new blog post. There are many automation tools out there such as CoTweet, Ping.fm and more. I’ll probably post about some in the future, for now, just Google ‘em!
3) Know your macro and micro goals
Your ‘macro’ goal is the big picture. Why am I doing social media? What is the long term goal for engagement? Increased visibility? More email addresses? More traffic to the website? Branding? Increased communication with customers?
Have a clear idea about your long-term social media goals before you start and see how it fits into the bigger picture of your business or non-profit. Know why you are involved in the first place so you have a sense of purpose and motivation.
On the ‘micro’ level, know what you plan on accomplishing in that particular session. Are you looking for new people to follow? Do you want to spend 15 minutes replying to @replies? And another 15 looking for great comments to Re-Tweet? Whatever your objectives are, be as specific as possible in the beginning so you have a sense of achievement and feel that you are getting things done which are contributing to your larger goal.
4) Don’t try and be everywhere, grow sustainably
Each social network requires time and effort – social media only works as much as you work it. This means that you won’t be able to be equally active on every networking site. To start out with, pick one or two that you think will be most beneficial for your business. That might be Twitter, or it might be a very niche site that caters to your type of customer or business. Make some progress at your chosen site(s) before trying to expand out into other networks too soon. If you have too many balls in the air and not enough time or attention to give them, you’ll get frustrated and probably give it up entirely.
5) Speed networking or long-lasting relationships?
Will you try and connect in a superficial way with as many people as possible? Or will you be looking to create deeper connections with a very specific and targeted group of people? Your approach will vary according to your goals and business but the point is that you won’t be able to be best buddies with everyone. And at some point, if you get really popular, it will be a struggle to respond to everyone that contacts you. You will probably have to pick and choose where to invest your one-on-one time, and that will be as much of a strategy decision as deciding on what your social media goals are.
6) Give it time
Social media is a long-term strategy. Don’t judge your performance too quickly. I would give it 3 -6 months of consistent effort to see what you have been able to accomplish before you get all judgmental about whether it’s working or not! In social media you reap what you sow and if you put in carefully spent time, there are benefits to be had.
7) Enjoy the process!
In the beginning, it can be a strange feeling to get out there into social media, especially if you are not a natural extrovert. It can take you out of your comfort zone if you are used to being behind the scenes of a business. But that is generally a passing phase. It might feel narcissistic to assume that people will care enough to pay attention to your updates, but the key is to be confident about the content you are providing. If you are providing useful information or resources, for example, and not just Twittering about the sandwich you just ate, you can feel secure in knowing you are contributing to the community. Once you get past the initial awkwardness, it’s enjoyable to discover new people, gain new knowledge and make connections. Enjoyment will definitely lead to increased and more genuine engagement, and help make it easily integrated into your marketing strategy. After all, if you really hate doing it, you probably won’t be doing it well and your time may best be spent elsewhere.
8) Play to your strengths
There is a multitude of ways to use social media and you can adapt your strategy to suit your personality. For example if you happen to have a very witty sense of humor, incorporating that into your Tweets and content would definitely be a bonus. Likewise, if your business has a team of staff members that will be participating in social media and one of you enjoys reading blogs and finding useful articles – let that person be in charge of tweeting that type of information. If another team member is more outgoing, sociable and great at connecting with people – let that person go out there and join in discussions and meet new people and work the digital room. Another may be best at problem-solving and can take on customer service. Let your social media involvement be a natural extension of the best of your personality and knowledge and you are more likely to get productively involved.
9) Know when to turn it off!
You might begin to enjoy social media so much that you want to spend more time doing it, but keep a strict eye on the clock. Set your time limits and goals, and when that’s completed turn off those sites. You have ‘real’ work to do – proposals to write, emails to send etc and keeping social sites open on your computer will just provide a distraction and eat into your work day.
What time management tips n’ tricks do you use to keep your social networking strategy on course?
Lucy works with entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them understand and use the web to promote their businesses and develop a well-rounded online marketing strategy. She blogs at: WebTrainingWheels.com
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